Freda Payne - Come Back to Me Love (2014)

Freda Payne
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With her latest album, Come Back to Me Love, Freda Payne comes full circle. It is an album of jazz and pop standards - the kind of songs that Payne grew up hearing and singing in her home town of Detroi, and the kind that were featured on Payne’s first recordings in the early 1960s.

Payne’s early career bears some similarities to Aretha Franklin, another daughter of Detroit who found moderate success recording tunes from the Great American Songbook canon before her soul music ship came in. Franklin’s transition to R&B and soul music was far more successful than Payne’s, but with “Band of Gold,” Payne struck gold on a song that remains a mainstay on Top 40 and oldies radio since it was released in 1970. The sweet-voiced Payne managed to do something that the Queen of Soul never achieved by running afoul of the government when the Department of Defense sought to ban her Vietnam War protest song “Bring the Boys Home.”

With her latest album, Come Back to Me Love, Freda Payne comes full circle. It is an album of jazz and pop standards - the kind of songs that Payne grew up hearing and singing in her home town of Detroi, and the kind that were featured on Payne’s first recordings in the early 1960s.

Payne’s early career bears some similarities to Aretha Franklin, another daughter of Detroit who found moderate success recording tunes from the Great American Songbook canon before her soul music ship came in. Franklin’s transition to R&B and soul music was far more successful than Payne’s, but with “Band of Gold,” Payne struck gold on a song that remains a mainstay on Top 40 and oldies radio since it was released in 1970. The sweet-voiced Payne managed to do something that the Queen of Soul never achieved by running afoul of the government when the Department of Defense sought to ban her Vietnam War protest song “Bring the Boys Home.”

Payne has had a distinguished career as a singer, actress, talk show host and speaker of truth to power. And she has remained busy through her recent 70th birthday, impressing soul, jazz and even pop audiences. Many heard her most recently on “Saving a Life,” her duet with Cliff Richard, on the latter’s 2011 album Soullicious. A video of the performance reveals that Payne singes in a lower register than in her “Band of Gold Days.” Those deeper, expressive vocals are well suited for the standards and pop tunes populating Come Back to Me Love.

The lushly arranged album features a good mix of often recorded songbook tunes, some under-recorded and underappreciated gems and blues and R&B cuts that Payne probably heard in her parents’ house and the clubs of post war Detroit. That mixture gives the tunes on Come Back to Me Love a familiar feel that manages to avoid becoming stale from over use.

A couple of my favorite moments come when the glamorous Payne shows that she willing to swim in the blues. The first comes on a smoky rendition of “Save Your Love For Me,” and she confirms that her soul chops remain sharp on her rendition of “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water.” That classic fusion of jazz, blues and R&B was made famous by Lou Rawls, and Payne endows the tune with the necessary sassiness.

Payne sprinkles the right mixture of Broadway glitz and melodramatic longing on the torchy “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” and her vocals on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” match the orchestra’s energetic swing.  And the R&B arrangement of “I Just Have To Know,” again confirms that Payne remains comfortable working in that genre; it is a song that should absolutely get picked up Urban Adult Contemporary radio.

Payne gets cast as a one hit wonder because she never again approached the level of success that she attained with “Band of Gold.” However, the qualities that made that tune a success were the things Payne learned singing jazz – phrasing, intonation and the overall control of her vocal instrument. Those qualities serve Payne well on this musical return to her roots and makes Come Back to Me Love, a thoroughly enjoyable reintroduction to this music legend. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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